Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Neanderthals May Have Been More Compassionate Than You Thought

The face of compassion. From Wikipedia.
Good news for you time travelers out there:  the Herald Sun reports that Neanderthals cared for their sick and injured. Researchers from the UK's University of York found that our ancient cousins nurtured the infirm rather than abandoning them. The researchers, as published in the journal Time and Mind, discovered remains of a child with a brain abnormality who was looked after for around six years. They also found evidence that a half-blind Neanderthal with a withered arm and feet remained in the community for as long as 20 years.

Researchers now believe that the journey to human compassion happened in four stages, beginning around six million years ago with chimpanzees offering simple gestures to help others. This evolved further with Homo erectus around 1.8 million years ago and started including animals, objects, and abstract concepts 120,000 years ago. Since compassionate behavior ranks as one of the best and easiest ways to increase long-term happiness, I'd imagine all these folks felt pretty good about what they were doing.

So if you get injured during a time jump and see a Neanderthal walking toward you, don't worry! Maybe he just wants to offer you medical care.

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